Rest, Reflection & Resolve
As we head into a time of the year in which things generally slow down, allowing us—whether it’s only a few days, or a couple of weeks, or just the slower pace at the start of a New Year—to unwind, the value of rest and reflect cannot be overstated. While traditional New Year’s Resolutions are usually as helpful as they are clichéd, a new year does present an opportunity to find a renewed sense of resolve. However, without rest and reflection, resolve is just a waft of hot air. True, life-giving resolve rises from a place of restful reflection.
Allow me to get a little grubby on this matter.
Failing to intentionally reflect is like failing to intentionally wash.
If I don’t shower every morning, my hair will get oily, my body clammy and at some point, I will have a hygiene problem. The buildup of dirt becomes the breeding ground for bacteria, and if I persist in avoiding a good wash, body odour will be the least of my problems. I may, for some reason, skip a shower from time to time (on those holidays when a day without a shower … taking a dip in the sea instead … makes me really feel like I’m relaxing), but if I do so regularly I’m in trouble.
If we fail to reflect we, in the same way, allow “dirt” to build up in our soul. This “dirt” may be unresolved emotions, simmering bitterness, unfounded anxiety, unmet expectations, uncompleted obligations or simply too many to-do-list “loose ends” that have yet to be tied up. These issues are more important than oily hair and sweaty armpits; it may not smell like it, but to leave these things “unwashed” leads to a diseased soul. And in an entire other dimension of stink, we pollute our environment.
There are few things better than getting into a hot shower after a soccer game. To feel the hot water flush away the perspiration, dirt and blood off the grazes (wounds of war!) is a tremendous feeling. However, no amount of standing there is going to do the job properly unless I intentionally use the shampoo to wash my hair and the soap to wash off the sweat and blood (boy, does that sound macho! I won’t mention the little squirms of agony that I attempt to keep muffled).
In the same way, there’s reflection and then there’s intentional reflection. In one sense, we all reflect. Our mind is always active (some more than others of course). Having an active mind, however, does not mean we are processing what we need to process anymore than standing in a shower does not scrub what needs to be scrubbed. In fact, just as water can turn a bloodied shin into a muddied and bloodied shin, randomly thinking about our life can turn a cluttered mind into a muddled and cluttered mind.
I recall seeing a T-shirt that had these words emblazoned across it: “I’m out of my mind but feel free to leave a message.”
Put another way …
If you take a walk down a forest path, your pants, socks and shoes are sure to pick up thorns and burrs along the way. After a time, you will have to take a break to remove the irritants and possibly an odd pebble from the shoe too. To walk on without these moments of “de-burring” would serve only to increase the irritation and if that pebble is not removed, cause damage to your foot. Reflection serves to “de-burr” us, if you like. Many people live with a sense of irritability and soul-damage that is unnecessary if they developed the habit of regular, intentional reflection.
In our hectic, frantic, crazy-busy “instant” age where yesterday is too slow, the art of reflection is worth more than gold. In a day where we’re encouraged—no, bullied—to “get all we can, can all we get and then sit on the can” … the principle of the reflection is not a luxury option. With stress and depression at an all-time high, while contentment and gratitude are at an all-time low, it is vital to re-engage with God’s antidote against workaholism and materialism.
Too often we mistakenly try to find rest from a life of work; God’s design is that we work from a life of rest.
Without intentional reflection …
one day fades into another, weeks melt into each other, month’s whiz past, years tick by … and we wonder, “Where did time go?”
one event dissipates into another, relationships become entangled, memories get fuzzy, responsibilities become muddy … and we wonder, “What’s the point?”
Unless we learn to push “Pause” we’re contriving against our own long-term quality of life and fruitfulness, securing an appointment with burn-out or a date with the proverbial brick wall … whichever comes first. (Both are ugly, and neither has a nice personality).
When we learn to push “Pause”—or “Selah” as the psalmist described it—and take the time to reflect, we learn to live life from a Divine point of view. Moments of resolution are borne in seasons of reflection.